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I didn't realize how much my younger son felt responsible for his older sister until my husband and I were casually discussing where we should go on vacation.  He was only about 8 years old at the time, as he pipes up and says "I don't want to go on vacation, I worry too much about (my sister) in case she should run away and get lost".  I had no idea that my youngest child felt so responsible for his older sister.  I felt horrible that he had taken this upon himself at such a young age.

Is your child a runner?  Some may say "wanderer", but our daughter did not "wander", she was a runner. A split second if you looked away and she was gone.  At the state fair, at the mall, in our neighborhood, on vacation.  It makes me tired and anxious just remembering these instances.  So what can you do to make your family vacations less stressful if you have a child with a disability that likes to wander?

We went through countless ID bracelets.  We would buy one and take it in to be engraved with all of her contact information.  She did not like wearing bracelets, so off they came.  We put locks high up on our exterior doors to make sure that she couldn't open them.  She learned to push a chair up to the door and promptly unlocked it.  We got a 6 foot privacy fence with a lock on the gate to make sure she stayed in our yard.  She learned to scale the fence and drop to the other side at 4 years old, and she was scot free.  

I do not have any magic answers.  But I can assure you that that my daughter DID grow up and learned to not run off.  We worked with her to be able to tell someone what her name and address was.  We talked about "safe" people to talk to if she should get separated from us.  We talked through hypothetical scenarios and who she should go to for help.  Once she got a little older, we went out on walks and looked at the street signs, and discussed what she would do if she got lost.  To learn to call 911 and tell the person "I am at the corner of A & B street."  We got her a fabulous turquoise cowboy hat that she wore only on vacation, that way we could easily lay eyes on her at all times.  Today there are great security systems available that signal an alarm if a door should open.  I would also suggest that your child have a cell phone as soon as they are able to appropriately use one.  It has been a tremendous stress reliever for my husband and I.  You might want to buy one that has GPS capability and enable that function.  I also contacted our local police department so they had her information on file and were aware that she was a wandered.   

The FIND FAMILIES site is a great way to network to find support and tips from other families.  The Ask resource center has a link to the website for http://www.iowacompass.org/ourprograms.htm to locate more information or support.  There are also many devices online for helping to track your child if they wander too far.

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